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Jack Harper 2018/19 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

Jack Harper 2018/19 – scout report

Getafe are building up for their European campaign in style, beginning with a raft of signings including Jack Harper. The new Getafe man will have to quickly adapt to a new approach in terms of tactics from the more attacking style which he grew accustomed to at Malaga, but the Scottish forward will do so with plenty of qualities and attributes which he will bring to the Estadio Coliseum de Alfonso Perez.

This tactical analysis will provide analysis in this scout report of the former Malaga man by considering his skills and talents, but also where he could have more room to improve after making the move for a reported €1.5 million.

Key to any transition

With an average of 3.23 dribbles per game and 0.78 progressive runs per match, it’s clear that Harper has a substantial impact on bringing the ball forwards and turning defence into attack. When in possession, he looks to take the ball from defence to attack with the ball at his feet at speed, attacking defenders directly with his aggressive style.

He is particularly devastating on the counter or when starting a move while out of possession. Rather than dropping deep, he instead makes runs to find gaps in between opposition defenders, frequently targeting the gap between the central defender and his full-back. This will be particularly important at Getafe, as will be dictated by the difference in his new team’s tactical approach.

Jack Harper 2018/19 - scout report tactical analysis tactics
Harper was alert to receive the ball on the counter and positioned himself well to immediately turn and go.
Jack Harper 2018/19 - scout report tactical analysis tactics
And carried the ball into the final third and delivered a cross.

At Getafe, however, he will likely be used in a different way. Getafe’s tendency to play long balls in a more direct style will see him spend more time using the kind of technique shown in the example above. Here, he shows good movement in attack to anticipate a potential break down in the opposition attack to position himself well to receive any clearance or long pass. Once he does so, he uses his pace well to break down the flank and eventually delivers a cross into the box. Such speed is not found in abundance in the Getafe squad and so such clinical ability to break through will be a real asset.

Flexibility across the front line

Harper played 80% of his minutes in 2018/19 as a centre-forward, though being far from a traditional central striker. Rather than sticking to the last man or staying central, he again looks to drift wide in order to find more space. Even when breaking into the box, he tends to do so breaking into the near post and making a run at the far post, rather than centrally. Compared to the likes of Jaime Mata, Jorge Molina and Angel Rodriguez, he offers a different and more mobile alternative. Given Bordalas’ preference, this may not be the role in which he is planning to use Harper.

An alternative could be that he can also play in a deeper role, with 12% of his minutes coming in a central attacking midfield position. Here, he acts as more of a false nine with greater freedom to roam around. Rather than arriving into the box from wide positions in this case, he instead looks to time his run to arrive late, getting on the end of cut-backs or crosses in the middle rather than anticipating crosses to either post.

Jack Harper 2018/19 - scout report tactical analysis tactics
Harper was used all across the front line for Malaga.

Finally, he is also capable of playing down either flank. With 8% of his minutes coming from wide positions, it is undoubtedly where he is most comfortable even if it is not his set position. At Malaga, he has played in a more central role than ever before but not necessarily obtaining the results that some would have hoped for. By being able to revert to a wider role, he may be able to link up with Getafe’s full-backs to produce a devastating wide threat and deliver crosses into the likes of target men which are in abundance in Bordalas’ squad.

Breaking down tight defences

With good skills and fancy footwork, Harper will also bring another skill which is lacking at Getafe. There can be no doubting that Jose Bordalas’ squad has immense fight and graft, which has worked wonders for them against more technical teams who have been surprised by the pressing and physicality of the Azulones. Where they instead came unstuck was against defences who were quite happy to sit deep and defend, even settling for a draw. As Getafe rise up the table, that will be an approach that they can expect to come up against more and more.

Here, Harper can bring real value. His ability to take small touches and turn a player became one his greatest strengths, particularly later on last season. The below example against Alcorcon shows just that, finding his way out of a tight corner and cutting the ball back to a player on the edge of the box to create a goalscoring opportunity. Taking players out of the game so quickly has been key and will be key to Getafe’s plans to break down defences who pack out the backline in numbers.

Jack Harper 2018/19 - scout report tactical analysis tactics
Harper can find a way out of a tight gap, like in this example where he is trapped in the corner.
Jack Harper 2018/19 - scout report tactical analysis tactics
But he found a way out with his neat footwork and cut the ball back to create a goalscoring opportunity.

With this in mind, it will be intriguing to see how much of this side of Harper’s game Bordalas wants to see. Individual flare and fancy skills are not a part of his team’s strategy and have not been an element that he has often tolerated, as Samu Saiz found out to his expense after joining from Leeds. Whether Bordalas will change that for Harper in order to allow him to thrive.

Room to improve

If there is one area where Harper can improve it is in the most important of statistics: his goal return. With just four goals last season, an average of 0.17 per 90 minutes, is a woeful figure for a player who played in a strong team as one of their key forwards.

There may not be too much cause for concern though thanks to his xG. With an xG of 4.16, only 0.16 more than his return, it would suggest that Harper’s issue is more heavily based upon his lack of chances, perhaps down to his poor movement. When in the final third, he is often too slow to react.

Jack Harper 2018/19 - scout report tactical analysis tactics
As the ball moves out wide for the cross, Harper pulls off his man to find space at the far post.

This may again point to the fact that Harper could be better used out wide. When he has shown signs of good movement and attacking intent, it has been like with his goal against Lugo, where he found space by moving off his man at the far post to attack a cross. Bordalas may just see that as his way of getting goals out of his new man, by removing the expectation and instead focusing on his strengths.


Harper is exactly the kind of young talent which Bordalas should be looking to add. With pace and energy to bring to an ageing Getafe attack, he will bring key qualities that the side need. With more depth needed, Harper may not expect to walk straight into the team, but could certainly be the kind of talent to make an impact from the bench and will almost definitely bring a new threat to the Getafe squad. Harper has huge potential and it will now be Bordalas’ task to help him achieve what he can and continue to grow and develop.

Total Football Analysis Magazine #11: July 2019 - tactical analysis tactics
Artwork by @chapulana

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